Oct 22, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Survey reveals pandemic's toll on gig workers

Illustration of an app shaped like a briefcase with a dollar sign on it waiting to download

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than two-thirds of gig workers have seen their incomes drop during the coronavirus pandemic, with almost a third cutting back on food as they struggle to cover expenses, according to new data from an industry survey shared exclusively with Axios.

The big picture: The pandemic has put ride-share drivers, personal shoppers and others at heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus without netting them benefits or additional pay.

By the numbers: The survey found that where one in five gig economy workers made less than $1000 a month in March, by summer that number had risen to three in five.

  • Nearly three in five said they couldn't cover household expenses for more than a month without additional financial help if they lost their main source of income.
  • Black gig workers have been particularly hard hit, reporting lower earnings and greater concern about COVID-19 than their white counterparts.

Details: The survey polled 695 gig workers across five U.S. cities in July and August.

  • It was led by Flourish Ventures, a financial technology venture capital firm backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and Steady, a platform that connects people to part-time work at both gig-economy firms and traditional employers such as retailers.

What they're saying: "All stakeholders need to be involved" to help get gig workers and others hard hit by the pandemic on firmer financial footing as the pandemic drags on, Flourish managing partner Emmalyn Shaw told Axios.

  • That includes the government and financial services providers, she said, as well as tech companies that may be able to alleviate financial troubles triggered or compounded by the pandemic through innovation.
  • Shaw cited as examples online banking startup Chime; Propel, which helps food stamp recipients manage their benefits through an app; and Cushion, which contests banking fees on users' behalf for an annual subscription fee.

The bottom line: "There are all these ways technology can address people's needs," Shaw said. "The question is, how creative can you be?"

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